Tagged: how to be Audrey Hepburn

On How to be Audrey Part IV

On How To Be Audrey, Part IV – Philosophy

I wasn’t quite sure what to label this last post, but I thought perhaps the word philosophy might cover it. This is the most important part of what made Audrey who she was, the most important thing about her that we could emulate. And I don’t think I can really do her justice with my words.

Yes, she had a good sense of style (um, except during the ’80s when it seems nobody had a good sense of style), she had healthy habits (except for smoking…), and good self-control, but the thing that impacted the people she met, and even those she didn’t, was her sense of compassion for others, and her calm and soothing presence.

“For me, Audrey is still here. She is someone you can never forget for a thousand reasons, not solely to do with her beauty, her excellent acting abilities or her talent. The key reason lies beyond all that. Above all, she was human, deeply viscerally human, as she demonstrated throughout her life…. she devoted incredible energy to changing the world.”

Hubert de Givenchy

I believe this sense of compassion was ingrained in her early in her life by her mother, who has been quoted as saying to her, “Others matter more than you do, so don’t fuss dear; get on with it.” Added to that, going through a war with her friends and family certainly must have instilled in her a sense of community and empathy that lasted throughout the rest of her life.

Words are going to fail me here, in this particular post, which is why I’ve procrastinated at writing it. I’m going to rely heavily on the words of those who knew her, such as her producer from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,”

“Everything you have read, heard or wished to be true about Audrey Hepburn doesn’t come close to how wonderful she was. There is not a human being on earth that was kinder, more gentle, more caring, more giving, brighter, and more modest than Audrey.”

Richard Shepherd

I don’t think I will be able to do her justice, having not even once met her, admiring from afar and knowing her only through words on a page. But I have never read anything terrible about Audrey. 99.9% of the time she seemed to be present and focused on whomever was in front of her, attentive and compassionate. She made everyone feel important, welcome and greeted everyone as though they were old friends even if it was the first time they had met.

“She had a quality I found in Eleanor Roosevelt. When Audrey said to you, ‘How are you, dear?’ she looked in your eyes and wanted an answer. It was not a form of salutation. It was a question from someone who cared. It was that one-on-one quality that electrified everyone. When Audrey was talking or listening to you, you possessed her totally and she possessed you…”

Roger Caras, president of the ASPCA

 

 

And it was genuine…

“Audrey was the kind of person who when she saw someone else suffering, tried to take their pain on herself. She was a healer. She knew how to love. You didn’t have to be in constant contact with her to feel you had a friend. We always picked up right where we left off.”

Shirley Maclaine

She definitely had her moments of stubbornness, if I recall. She insisted her dog be an exception to the quarantine rules of Africa to join her while filming “The Nun’s Story.” I recently read somewhere (when I find it again I will edit this!) that when a hotel in Paris couldn’t make her drink right at the bar, she switched hotels. She tended to travel with her whole household in her luggage and request the same room in a hotel, even requesting some of the same furniture if it had been moved to another room (if anyone has the references for this, please let me know. I’m going off of memory right now). However, I am betting that all of these requests were made with the friendliest attitude, none of the irritated entitlement one would expect from a film star.

“She was so wonderfully easy to work with and so unfailingly kind and caring to everyone. Genuine, unique, compassionate, true to her beliefs, honest and without any artifice, she stood out of the conventional image of show business, glitz and glamour.”

Christa Roth

She was very thoughtful and diplomatic in her interviews and interactions, I’ve noticed. She didn’t seem to want to offend anyone. She once stood in for Patricia Neal to present the Best Actress award at the Oscars, but due to her complicated situation of being overlooked for “My Fair Lady,” and presenting the award to Julie Andrews for “Mary Poppins,” she neglected to mention Patricia, was reminded, and apologized profusely. I’m sure she felt terribly guilty for ages.

 

After a tribute to her at the Lincoln Center in 1991, at a post-tribute dinner, the following occurred:

“She had to make sure that everyone who had come long distances sat close to her, but she couldn’t bear to decide who should or shouldn’t. So she had us make one tremendous table by pushing ten together into a giant oval that went on for miles. It was perfect. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. It never happened before or since at one of these events, because most people don’t care. But Audrey did.”

Wendy Keys

While living in Rome, she made many new friends but apparently never quite fit in, because she refused to engage in conversations about others.

“She never integrated because she was not a gossip.”

Anna Cataldi, friend

However, although she was kind and considerate, she was also withdrawn.

“She, in some mysterious way, kept me from being totally intimate… I longed to get closer, to get behind what was the invisible, but decidedly present, barrier between her and the rest of us more mortal human beings. Something… was there, holding me back from getting as close as I wanted.”

Stanley Donen

I believe that this was a mix of her mother’s teachings, and also a self-preservation method she adopted as an actress. I’m sure when she was younger she learned to hold back information to protect her privacy. But also, being a sensitive person, she may have held back parts of herself more frequently as she aged to protect herself from disappointments and betrayals.

“I sensed a sort of reserve, a hesitancy in her relationship with people. She was always prepared to withdraw from any event or discussion – she could quickly, almost abruptly, bring it to an end. I’d give her an ‘A’ in closure! It made her not less but more interesting.” 

Dr. Ron Glegg, Rob Wolder’s brother-in-law

“She was not chatty about her personal feelings. She was British in that way – friendly, kind, but with that reserve of ‘Don’t get too close to me.’ ”

Sergio Russo, her hairdresser in Rome

But she did trust a select few. Audrey had a very small circle of close friends. An older friend of mine was married to a screenwriter “back in the day,” who was working with a producer who was working with Audrey Hepburn. She has stories of so many celebrities she’s met in her life, but the one she wishes she would have been able to meet was Audrey. But “she was very insulated, and didn’t want to meet many new people,” she told me.

“She had almost a child’s need or capacity to trust and to entrust herself to someone. Once she trusted someone, she would give them her life.”

Robert Wolders

Although she seemed to keep only a very few number of people get close to her, she wasn’t afraid to show love, even if it wouldn’t be returned.

“Audrey was a great cutup – very impish and playful. It’s a quality you find in children and in puppies, which might explain why she was so drawn to animals – and perhaps had more trust in animals than in human beings. Sometimes when she would show a great deal of love for someone on whom I felt it was wasted, I’d say, ‘Don’t you expect something in return?’ She would say, ‘No. My love for them doesn’t mean I expect anything back. It’s like with an animal.”

Rob Wolders

Having lived in Hollywood for quite some time, I have to say that this quality should be practiced more often, especially in the film community! Los Angeles is a city where everybody wants something and they’re only nice to you until they’ve got it (or until they realize they’re not getting it). I love the fact that she would give love to anyone she thought needed or deserved it, without expecting anything from them.

“There is a moral obligation, that those who have should give to those who don’t.”

Audrey

Always thinking of others…

Audrey never seemed to have any public displays of anger or ego, nor many private ones that I’ve heard of (I can’t imagine there weren’t any raised voices when struggling with romantic relationships). She had a tremendous amount of self-control…

“There are people who blow their tops, and people who don’t. I am told it is bad to bottle it all up inside you, but then if you blow you have to go around apologizing… I suppose I should just let it come out of my ears.”

Audrey

However, it seemed she liked to keep more than herself under control, and perhaps wasn’t very spontaneous. From an interview with herself and her husband at the time, Andrea Dotti:

“It’s difficult to have both [security and love], especially for women, since security is based on a fixed social and economic situation, a status quo with prearranged agreements or contracts, while love is wild, unfixed, unpredictable… No doubt Audrey’s childhood experiences intensified these drives. She’s a perfectionist, with a strong need for security. She must have matters under control and she’s afraid of surprises. For example, if she has to go to Geneva next month, she buys the ticket now. I do it the day before, and maybe then I’ll change my mind and go to Sardinia.”

Andrea

“No, love, you wouldn’t fly off anywhere, because for Sardinia there’s always a waiting list.”

Audrey

Though she wasn’t stuck in her ways and still took joy in exploring life:

“I think Audrey was much more comfortable with Sister Luke than with other parts. It was the story of a woman who investigated life, who was constantly on a search. As Audrey was.”

Robert Wolders

Thanks, GettyImages.

Audrey didn’t talk much about her spiritual beliefs, but from what I gather, she was raised Christian Scientists, considered herself Protestant for a while, and later on in life seemed to be thinking more about the spiritual aspect of life. Around the time of “The Nun’s Story,” she was quoted as saying,

“I have been educated in the Protestant faith and shall remain Protestant even though I have great respect for those who profess the Catholic faith.”

Audrey

In 1956 she mentioned religion in an interview with Phyllis Battelle:

“Two things I never talk about are salary and religion. I find them sort of intimate things, and besides, it [her salary] changes all the time… My religion has been the same for 27 years but I won’t tell anybody what it is. Not that I’m Mohammedan, or anything surprising. I just keep it to myself.”

Audrey

Her son, Luca, stated,

“Mom thought that religious education was an important part of our cultural background and had great respect for all beliefs.  Worship was something intimate and personal for her, that extended to every little action we make. She believed in the struggle between Good and Evil and had faith in Love as the single element that bonds everything.”

Luca Dotti

Stepping back a little to the self-discipline Audrey possessed, I have to say she impressed me very much with her work ethic, especially early on in her career. She certainly was hustling.

“[Landau] said one day that anyone who’d like to make an extra shilling could be in cabaret. So after Sauce Tartare, at 11:30 at night, I’d be at Ciro’s again at midnight, make up and do two shows. All dancing. I made £11 for the first show and £20 for the second. So I was doing 18 shows weekly and earning over £150 a week. I was completely nuts.”

Audrey

Around Christmas, she added in children’s shows, playing a fairy, and doing eight matinees a week.

“I got home at 2am [from Ciro’s], slept and was up and in rehearsal at 10am. I was very ambitious and took every opportunity. I wanted to learn and I wanted to be seen. My voice was pitched so high that my mother said I sounded as though I were about to take off.”

Audrey

And throughout her career, she worked hard, studying her script at night and on the way to set, taking vocal coaching, dance and movement classes… she was a hard worker (although I did hear that she spent a lot of late nights out with her fiancé during rehearsals for Gigi and got scolded for her poor performances the day after!).

This has been a long post, hasn’t it?! Kind of rambling… there’s just so much to say about her, but I tried to keep focused on the wonderful attributes that she exhibited and that we can learn from. So now comes the part where I apply Audrey’s admirable qualities to my own life, in my effort to emulate her. As I said, the idea is to emulate her good qualities, the habits that would make a positive difference in my life. I’ve covered self-control when it comes to food and exercise, and have been examining my closet (and I’ll write an update on how all of this is going, later), but now I’ve added a focus on self-control when it comes to interactions with others, and self-discipline when it comes to work.

Having been raised differently than Audrey, and with different experiences behind me, I’ve always found it difficult to suppress when I am upset, displeased, or dissatisfied. And in the age of digital communication, it’s made it even more difficult! With email instead of letters, texting instead of calling… every interaction seems more intimate and casual than it used to be, or should be. I’ve been re-educating myself on the rules of communication, and figuring out how to retreat a little from the casualness with which I normally respond to things.

For in-person interactions, I would like to be a bit more proper, however it doesn’t come natural to me. I am always feeling nervous and insecure and unsure of how to address anyone, always in some way feeling insecure or inferior. When it’s my own party, for example, I feel much more relaxed and in control, but when I’m the outsider I don’t know what to do with myself! I suppose practice makes perfect. I’m also discovering, through a book on French-American cultural differences that I’ve been reading, how Americans communicate differently than the French. Now, I know Audrey wasn’t French, but she was not American and I wonder which communication habits she was more familiar with. Learning about my own culture from an outsider’s perspective has been interesting.

The biggest challenge for me is learning how to better express concern, appreciation, and attentiveness. I’m not very good at expressing anything with words, in my opinion, so this may take a long time to master. I think I need to find a lot of good examples, perhaps letters, to study. I do enjoy making others feel good, but I fail when it comes to finding the words to do so. I was not raised with parents who exhibited a natural skill with words, and never thought much of it until years later. So I have remained quite shy and quiet, which can be easily misunderstood. Working on this.

I feel as though I can look into the future by observing Audrey and how she handled her pain. I didn’t include text about that here, since I wanted to keep the focus on her good habits and not on the things I didn’t want to emulate. But after several relationships had ended, apparently she carried that grief with her for a while. I don’t want to end up with pain that others can see. I want to learn how to deal with it and not carry it with me. I haven’t quite figured out how yet…

As for worth ethic… I think sometimes I’m a hard, dedicated worker, and sometimes I’m not. As I get older, I have less patience for things that I have to do simply to make money, things that seem like a distraction from more important things, and things I just don’t like doing. I’ve been a bit spoiled, working online, though when that’s not going well, I do lock myself inside and work hard to pay my rent! In fact, I’m usually always working on something, though it doesn’t always lead to money. I could stand to have more focus and discipline with the things I say are important to me, though. I have to really narrow it down and prioritize, otherwise I just get into a state of overwhelm. I love to do so many things!

In short, really, to emulate Audrey I must be sensitive to others, learn to express happiness and gratitude and to deal with anger and frustrations gracefully. I mustn’t gossip, and I must give without expectations of receiving. I must be careful whom I open up to (and as an American with the tendency to talk to strangers more, that book I mentioned finally makes sense of why we may do that) but also find a way to deal with pain so that it doesn’t stick around later on and negatively impact me or my relationships.

I wish I could already be like Audrey in these ways, but it’s never too late to improve oneself. Nobody can be Audrey, just like nobody can be you, or me – we’re all unique and we all have something different to offer the world. But personally, I see room for improvement in my attitude and outlook and behaviour, and Audrey has been my measuring stick, as she is the embodiment of grace, tact, gratitude and love (to me). I want to leave the world better for having been in it, just like she did.

Help me, Audrey, to become the best version of myself I can be!!

 

 

Again, that’s the element X that people have, or don’t have. You can meet somebody and you can be enchanted, and then you photograph them and it’s nothing. But she had it. And there will not be another. Today, there is Julia Roberts. She is quite capable, very funny. . . . I loved her instantly in Pretty Woman. But no actress should be expected to be Audrey Hepburn. That dress by Mr. Givenchy has already been filled.”

William Wilder

 

This is not quite the end of this little series… I’m going to post an update later, in case anybody is interested. I also am going to mention here (and in the next post) about my almost-secret project. I’ve been talking with two friends of mine about going on a grand Audrey adventure across Europe, and making a film about it. I will tell you more about it later, or you can just go to On How To Be Lovely and see what’s there. 😉 I’m really hoping to make it a reality! If you think you may be able to help us with it, please let me know!

On How to be Audrey Part III

So I’ve been working on my self-control with not snacking during the day (which is harder than I thought! But apples are a good and healthy snack to fool your stomach. Not quite as good as peanut butter cups though), and my discipline with exercise. I’ve even decided to go to a gym once a week and work with a trainer. It’s something I’d thought about in the past but it seems like now is a good time to just do it. I know I’ve got the potential to be healthier and stronger than I am, and I don’t want to regret waiting any longer than I have! It’s one of those things I never felt that I could afford, but I feel like my body needs it, and what better time than now? I have to fit into all of these gorgeous tiny vintage dresses that I adore!

In this post, I’m going to cover Audrey Hepburn’s style, and look at how I can apply her fashion sense to my own wardrobe. What we choose to wear, or how we choose to wear what we have, is one way in which we shape the image of ourselves that we present to the world. Everything we wear says something about us. About how we see ourselves, or how we want to see ourselves. About our status, our preferences and priorities. It is in many ways an outward projection of our inner selves. Or at least as much of ourselves as we want to let others see. And personally, my wardrobe has not always really reflected who I was or am. I had always wanted a large vintage wardrobe, because that was what I loved, but it was always easier and more affordable to buy the latest trends. In high school I would shop at the Goodwill and other thrift stores, but usually what I found was not in good condition. I’ve finally decided that it’s time to revamp my wardrobe into what I’ve truly been wanting. However, even putting together your vintage style takes a little thought and planning! Audrey to the rescue…

“Some people dream of having a big swimming pool – with me it’s closets!” Audrey

On How to be Audrey, Part III – Style

In 1949, when Audrey was living in London and working in the theatre, her wardrobe was quite different from how most of us think of her.

“She had one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves. What she did with them week by week you wouldn’t believe. She’d wear the little beret on the back of her head, on one side, on the other side – or fold it in two and make it look very strange. She had the gift, the flair of how to dress.” Nickolas Dana, High Button Shoes dancer

1949 – Audrey with one of her scarves!

Audrey had less than most of us do in her closet when she was starting out. And her method of making it work for her was to get creative! You can make almost any outfit look new and different by changing up your accessories. I would love to see what Audrey did with those scarves (I could use the inspiration). She was so innovative with clothing that at one point, to earn extra money, she would purchase plain little hats to embellish and re-sell. Now that’s inspiring me…. and making me wonder where all of these hats ended up. A hat made by Audrey Hepburn, wouldn’t that be a treasure!

1953 – Still loving scarves!

When she left for France to work on Nous Irons à Monte Carlo, her co-stars Geraldine and Cara gave her some of their own clothes, seeing as she didn’t have much of a wardrobe. And apparently they all bought their first bikinis at the Monte Carlo Beach Club!

Eventually, with more work and more money, and a new friend in Givenchy, she settled on what would become her signature style. Casually, she would be seen wearing pedal pushers or cigarette pants, with a button-up shirt tied around the waist. Formally, she favoured dresses without patterns or details that would date it, in flattering cuts with very defined waistlines.

In 1962 she gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun and went into great detail about her fashion sense. I will let Audrey take over now.

“I have come to realize two important factors about myself. First of all, my coloring lacks definition. I therefore prefer to wear black, white or muted colors such as beige or soft pinks or greens. These colors tend to make my eyes and hair seem darker whereas bright colors overpower me and wash me out.

Secondly, I am quite tall and of angular build. Therefore I don’t wear padded or squared shoulders and often cheat on my armholes and collars to give an illusion of narrow rather than wide shoulders. I wear low-heeled shoes to give the impression that I’m smaller than I am.

Another thing I have learned, in order to avoid the cliché, “I don’t have a thing to wear” in spite of a closet full of clothes, is to prepare a clothes chart for the coming season, just as I do when handed a script of a new movie. I start by writing down all the things I have and then eliminating the ones I feel I’ve worn out or outdated. Then I try to visualize what my needs will be during the upcoming season, all, of course, depending on where I might be. I then go about buying rather purposefully just the things I need to fill any gaps, such as a new suit or a coat or dinner dress.

As I rarely have time for shopping, I have to plan ahead, which saves me from being tempted by that one dress I shall never wear.

Also, I have a problem which is peculiar to my nomadic existence and that is packing. I try to travel with as little as possible. This brings me to my next point, which is to buy things adaptable for many, rather than just one, occasion. That is another reason why I like conservative colors such as beige or black, which will look right at almost any hour of the day or evening and in almost any weather.

This enables me, too, to cut down on accessories. I have only black or beige shoes and bags and wear only white three-quarter-length gloves. The only exceptions are an evening purse and one pair of white satin shoes.

The principal contributive factor to the way I dress is that I am fortunate enough to be married to a fashion-conscious man by the name of Mel Ferrer, whom I think has infallible taste.

It is tremendously rewarding for a woman to have a husband who notices. Mel has a real interest in clothes, and we enjoy choosing my things together. I have become greatly dependent on his taste and guidance. After all, I think any woman dresses mostly for the man in her life.” Audrey

And as a bonus, she gave “Four Rules for the Hepburn Look”

 

Four Rules for the Hepburn Look

Audrey also didn’t wear much jewelry. A pair of hoop earrings were a favourite early on, and she always had a pair of pearl earrings on hand. Occasionally she would wear a bracelet, and never a watch (She had been noted saying that she strongly disliked the initial cold of the metal when touching her skin and the heaviness of the watch).

I also have to mention that Audrey did NOT always dress up. She wore t-shirts and cozy sweatshirts and sweaters like the rest of us when she wasn’t expecting to be photographed. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

So to distill it down to a few points, and to analyze my own habits and see what adjustments I should make…

Audrey Hepburn’s Rules of Style

  1. Know your colours. I have similar colouring to Audrey and upon examination of my closet do find it quite full of muted colours, black, and white. I don’t know if it was really intentional, but I do see a pattern. Most of the more colourful things I own, I don’t wear, and are in the “to go” pile now as I pick through my closet. I will definitely make note of what I feel is more complimentary to my colouring.
  2. Know how to create the proportions you find pleasing. Although Audrey and I are the same height, I don’t have a big problem with being tall, except when I’m around women who are much shorter than I am, or men who won’t match my height in heels. I like the look of heels with certain skirts and dresses. However, flats are always more comfortable and practical! I also have wide shoulders and hate any kind of shoulder padding or puffed sleeves, so those are avoided. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a fan of the ’80s.
  3. Go through your closet regularly and visualize how to have the wardrobe you want with the least amount of pieces. This, I am in the process of doing. I have way too many pieces of clothing that I don’t actually wear anymore. I want to simplify and only have clothes that I actually love and wear. Living in California for so many years, I never felt a need to separate my winter and summer clothing. I just added coats. And in France, well, I usually lacked any storage space, so everything hung out together there, as well. I do sometimes examine my wardrobe and think of something I feel is missing, and go on a quest for it. But I also went on spontaneous shopping trips with nothing in mind, and returning home with bags of new garments. I’m cutting down on that! Which brings us to:
  4. Shop with purpose. For several years I have had a major Crossroads Trading Company (it’s a secondhand store with amazing finds) addiction, and would just walk in looking for buried treasures, nothing specific. And this is how I end up with more than I need. But I haven’t set foot in a Crossroads in at least four months now! I have been shopping with purpose on etsy. Pat me on the back.
  5. Buy quality over quantity. I’m getting better at this. Slowly. However, with Crossroads, I felt like I could have both quality and quantity. Dior shoes, Mark Jacobs jackets… but now my closet is full.
  6. Buy tops and bottoms that are interchangeable and versatile, especially for travel. This is something I have to pay more attention to now that I’m not wearing jeans as much. Jeans go with nearly every top. But now that I’ve got a green skirt, and a tan skirt, and a navy skirt… I can’t just wear the same white shirt with all of them all the time, I need at least one or two other shirts that could go with them and create twice as many outfits. This is already how I travel… seeing how many different outfits I can create with the least amount of clothing. And I usually stick to two pairs of shoes – the black and the white, unless I have room for one or two more. With the cost of vintage clothing (which I’m buying more of nowadays) being usually more than the things I find at Crossroads, I have to pay extra attention to how many outfits I can make with each piece.


So those are my challenges.

Get rid of the things I don’t wear and narrow down my closet to pieces that are versatile, interchangeable, timeless and loved. Simplify and organize.

And perhaps…

buy more scarves.

 

 

 

If you’re interested in shopping from my closet, you can find my vintage things at http://onamae.etsy.com and my more modern clothing on the app http://www.depop.com under username @kendalinwonderland.